Elliott Sharp's Terraplane: "Century"
Songs born not only from the tumult of this last year but of this last hundred years...and more, raging furiously yet with sly humor and stellar musicianship.
"Century" features the vocals of Tracie Morris, Eric Mingus, and Mikel Banks and instrumental contributions from the late great Hubert Sumlin on guitar, violist Melanie Dyer, trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum, guitarist Al Kaatz, upright bassist Dave Hofstra, and drummer Don McKenzie. Producer E# plays guitars, steel guitar, electric bass, banjo, saxophones, keyboards, electronics, and e-drum programming.
This latest Terraplane album, Century, found its genesis in a 2020 hörspiel produced by Karl Bruckmaier for the Bavarian Radio in Munich commemorating the 100th anniversary of the book Negro, edited by Nancy Cunard, a collection of African-American writings, poems, and song lyrics. This volume, controversial as it was at its inception, introduced African-American literature and culture from the likes of Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Zora Neale Hurston to the white world. Beginning with a commission to write fve songs based on the uncompromising and blistering texts of unknown authorship found in the book, the project expanded.
These texts took an unfinching look at life in post-Reconstruction post-WWI America with lynchings, beatings, and blatant racist discrimination the norm, and displayed courageous defance and clear-headed analysis, often in guttural and graphic terms. The "n-word" was in common usage and is indeed found in some of these lyrics.
A century later how much has changed?
"As a son of a Holocaust survivor raised on the necessity of confronting racism in all its forms, I was unsure of how to proceed. With the encouragement, discussion, and collaboration of Tracie Morris and Mikel Banks, songs were written and recorded based on the old texts with new music to bring them to date. Tol Mah Capn, Whip & Trigger, Stan Boys Stan, Goin To Atlanta all frame their anger in a world-weary and slyly humorous stance. New songs as well were composed with Eric Mingus that comment on the state of things, pointed, but without falling into polemic: Toppling Statues is as direct as can be. The album continues with the instrumental memorials Tulsa '21 and The Murder of Elijah McLain - grim reminders of a terrible past that is still very much present. Elijah McLain's story resonated strongly with me but his is not the only one: there are far too many of late: their names, their names. The set is rounded out with a century-old song of continual relevance, Blind Alfred Reed's classic, "How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live?" and a new song, "Exit Strategy", that came out of a deep dive into an old hard drive. Lost guitar parts by the legendary Hubert Sumlin surfaced: obbligati to a track never completed for Terraplane's 2011 album Sky Road Songs, now ready to go." – Elliott Sharp, NYC June 2021
|At the root of these songs and the anthology that compiled them among others, are the twins of joy and despair, resolute hope and the depths of epigenetic loss. They are aesthetic meditations on individual and collective despair as well as the indomitable spirit of humanity. The results of this alchemy of profound feeling are poetry and sounds that shake the world and right it. It is this extraordinary sense of being, this legacy that we honor with these creative offerings. — Tracie Morris
The songs are a century old,but the sentiment,ideas and content are surprisingly (unfortunately) contemporary. Albeit spoken in antique language style.... the songs put on glaring display.... just how little we have advanced in race relations. A century ago the authors of these words were speaking their truths about the tribulations they faced, although those tribulations have mutated with time and new technology.... they are present as ever! The relevance of these tunes... including the use of the N word...are on point as ever! Sharply descriptive, poetic and timeless, these words still cut deep in the souls of American culture to this very moment in time. – Mikel Banks
At the heart of Terraplane is the blues. A music in itself that is political. Created by folks whose mere existence is a political statement. Elliott takes that tradition and runs with it head on and we the band members march side by side with him. It's heartwarming how our audiences have responded to our grooves and political statements, it is terrifying that we still have to sing them as it seems America has a hard time shaking free from it's checkered past. We play on until the change comes. – Eric Mingus
Released July 15, 2021
PRODUCED BY ELLIOTT SHARP
Tracie Morris - vocals (1, 4, 11)
Mikel Banks - vocals (3, 6, 11)
Eric Mingus - vocals (2, 4, 8, 10)
Hubert Sumlin - guitar (4)
Al Kaatz - guitar (10)
Melanie Dyer - viola (9)
Taylor Ho Bynum - trumpet (6, 11)
Dave Hofstra - acoustic bass (3, 9)
Don McKenzie - drums
E# - guitars, steel guitar, electric bass, banjo, saxophones, keyboards, electronics, drum programming
Recorded and mixed at Studio zOaR NYC except for drums on 3, 9, 10 courtesy of Don Mckenzie.
Thanks: to all of my collaborators and to Karl Bruckmaier, Katharina Agatos, Joe Mardin, Lila, Kai, Janene.
Tracks 7, 9, 10 - zOaR Music - BMI
Tracks 1, 5, 11 - zOaR Music - BMI & Tradru - ASCAP
Tracks 3, 6, 11 - zOaR Music - BMI & Mikel Banks - BMI
Tracks 2, 4 - zOaR Music - BMI & Sugnim Cire Sounds SESAC
Track 8 - Public domain
Cover design by Janene Higgins.
Image is a map of the United States that shows "free states”, "slave states”, and “undecided" ones, as it appeared in the book "American Slavery and Colour” by William Chambers, 1857
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